(2021) Superhero Comedy (Netflix) Melissa McCarthy, Octavia Spencer, Jason Bateman, Bobby Cannavale, Pom Klementieff, Melissa Leo Taylor Mosby, Marcella Lowery, Melissa Ponzio, Ben Falcone, Nate Hitpas, Jevon White, David Storrs, Kevin Dunn, Henry Bazemore Jr., Mikia Adrielle Jeter, Steve Mallory, Bria D. Singleton, Tai Leshaun, Vivian Falcone, Mia Kaplan. Directed by Ben Falcone
Making a good superhero movie is hard. Making a good comedy is harder. Trying to combine the two genres and making it work – REALLY hard.
In the world of Thunder Force, the world has been bathed by cosmic rays, imbuing a certain percentage of the population with cool superpowers. Unfortunately, it is the segment of the population that is sociopaths and assholes. These superpowered sociopaths are known as “miscreants.”
Ordinary people are caught in the crossfire. Among them are the parents of Emily Stanton (Spencer), who are geneticists working on a way to give those who aren’t sociopathic superpowers. Emily vows to carry on her parents’ work. Orphaned, she was raised by her grandmother and at her new school is befriended by Lydia Berman (McCarthy) who protects her from bullies, but has a lot more of a hedonistic attitude while Emily has a singular focus. It leads to a rift between the best friends.
Now middle aged, Emily is on the cusp of making her parents’ dream a reality, while Lydia works as a forklift operator, swilling beer and eating pancakes at her favorite diner which whose owner (Dunn) ruefully admits that he doesn’t know how much longer he can remain open since people aren’t going out to eat as much since there’s a good chance that they’ll be killed by a Miscreant if they do.
However, the diner owner manages to guilt Lydia into texting Emily to invite her to the upcoming class reunion, although Emily is too busy to really commit. So Lydia heads over to the digs of her high tech headquarters, only to accidentally be injected with the super strength serum Emily had intended on taking herself. Emily is forced to have to settle for invisibility, which is perhaps a wry commentary on the state of African-American women in the year of our lord, 2021.
The two plus-sized ladies become Thunder Force and set out to rid Chicago of its Miscreant population, including mayoral candidate King (Cannavale) whose bizarre henchman, the Crab (Bateman) becomes the focus of Lydia’s erotic desires. But can the two women, so different, work out their differences and become a dynamic duo?
If you’re looking for mindless entertainment, this here is not a bad choice. Like other McCarthy films, particularly those directed by her husband Ben Falcone, there’s a certain similarity in tone, with McCarthy playing an essentially good-hearted slob who stumbles her way into a difficult situation. Whether taking on spy films or science fction, crime capers or fish out of water films, McCarthy is a brfash presence with a flair for physical comedy, although some of the more difficult physical turns are less successful these days.
Spencer is a gifted actress who always seems to elevate everything she does, and she’s been a real life friend of McCarthy for decades now. The banter between the two of them is one of the film’s main highlights; I certainly wouldn’t object to seeing the two of them again as a comic duo, although given McCarthy’s recent success in dramatic roles, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to see them in a drama either.
Falcone tends to opt for the low-brow humor here, and has an unfortunate tendency to ram punchlines into the ground with endless repetition, something he has demonstrated throughout his collaborations with his wife. There are actually some intriguing ideas here, but Falcone never really explores them; I’d love to see a movie dealing with the effects of superpowers on ordinary folk (as in absolute power corrupts absolutely) as the brilliant DC miniseries Kingdom Come did. I also give the movie kudos for allowing the sorts of superheroines that we don’t ever see – women who aren’t statuesque sorts wearing skimpy leotards.
Ultimately, this is merely ordinary, with some decent special effects but nothing that will make MCU fans chomp at the bit to see this. I can’t say that my expectations were too high for this one, given the track record, and yours shouldn’t be either, but this is decent entertainment and lord knows in a year that has given us much to stress over, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
REASONS TO SEE: Decent entertainment.
REASONS TO AVOID: Doesn’t really add anything new.
FAMILY VALUES: There is comic book violence, some profanity and some sexual innuendo.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Emily is played as a young girl by Vivian Falcone, who is Melissa McCarthy’s real-life daughter.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Netflix
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/10/2021: Rotten Tomatoes: 25% positive reviews; Metacritic: 34/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Spy
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT: Better Days